Getting There: A Look At One Cost Of Charterization

Sep 14, 2011 by

Proposed transportation costs for each Orleans Parish School District traditional school for fiscal year 2011, according to this document, are as follows:

$662,500 – Bethune Elementary

$667,000 – Franklin Elementary

$143,000 – Mahalia Jackson Elementary

$717,500 – McDonogh 35 High School

$625, 427 – McMain High School

Recovery School District transportation costs, based on the fiscal year 2010 proposed budget, are $12,503,500, down from $14,833,596 in 2009 (check page 27 of the 2010 proposed budget for the 2009 stats). How’d they shrink that expense?

Transportation: $12,503,500. Transportation costs reduce the resources that could go directly to the classroom. RSD is a district of choice by both design and default. Following Hurricane Katrina, the schools with the least destruction opened first and enrolled students living throughout the parish. There are no catchment areas (i.e., no zoning for neighborhood schools) in New Orleans. The result of this is very large transportation costs—easily two-thirds more ($8 million) than pre-Katrina ridership. These costs will be 10 percent of the general fund revenue. To balance the budget, transportation has been revised to provide RTA passes to high school students. This will reduce transportation costs by $2,200,000.

The RSD is not the only one that gets in on using the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in lieu of school buses for students. One of the forms I must fill out for my son’s OPSD charter school each year is a transportation form that promises nothing except RTA rides for students with transportation needs. The school’s charter states it can arrange school bus service with the help of the OPSD for field trips, but that is it.

I’ll admit it: transportation has been weighing heavily on me on a personal level lately because I have thus far been making do without a vehicle of my own for over a week. The descriptions my mechanic has been giving me of how difficult it is to get to the faulty valve in my aging white whale of a car have nearly convinced me that my car is a descendant of Ignatius Reilly and made me thankful I haven’t turned the old thing towards Baton Rouge with great intent to get there in quite a while.

Damn near anyone who has had any experience with RTA service pre- or post-8/29/2005 knows that the “R” in the acronym stands for neither “rapid” nor “reliable.”  Yet, despite state law, this is still called upon time and again as a solution to one of the largest of the problems facing this move towards “school choice.” Hell, the absence of being zoned for particular schools has made even the school busing that is there a logistical nightmare, with kids spending as much or more time on the buses to and from school than their parents probably spend getting to and from work.

I thought I’d be able to manage without a car for a while, but my most recent snag was mid-week Hebrew school for the little guy, which starts 20 minutes after his regular school day ends. Not too much of a problem making that in a car…but RTA makes it impossible to get to the synagogue on time, even though the streetcar line can take us right there. The absence of other kids going the same way from my son’s school makes arranging carpools tough. If it weren’t for the little guy innocently asking me if I was going to drive him to school today, I wouldn’t have the use of a car today – once we realized, in that second, that I could drop my husband off at his workplace in Metairie after dropping the kiddo off at school, I felt better. Free-er, even.

I am spoiled. I know it. I dread tomorrow, another day without a car, another heavy reliance on RTA to get me there and back to pick my son up from school. I also know that this is going to be nothing compared to what getting to the temporary location of my son’s school is going to be like next semester. I’d try to drive the sorrows down, down into the bottom of the nearest bottle of beer, but I’m a parent. I’ve got to be responsible. I just wish all of this garbage had been in the parenting contract…


Update, 9/16: Looks like I’m not the only one concerned about this. It’s kind of a nationwide problem. Check “No Transportation, No Education!” by Jorel Moore on page 5 here to see how one group of activists raised the issue in New York City. Giving me some ideas…hmmm…







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